Looking for ways for you and your family to be healthier? One of the best
things you can do is spend more time in the kitchen. When you cook your
own meals, you have complete control over what—and how much—you
eat. Cooking at home also saves you money. Eating out is expensive!
And there’s a reason those extra-large restaurant portions taste
so good: They’re chock-full of calories, sodium, sugar and saturated
fat. According to “A Nation at Risk: Obesity in the United States,”
adults today consume an average of 300 more calories per day than they
did in 1985, portion sizes have grown dramatically over the last 40 years
and Americans eat out much more than they used to.
The result: Today, nearly two-thirds of us are overweight or obese, which
leads to chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease.
We know. You’re busy. You don’t have
TIME to cook. You don’t know
HOW to cook. Your children are picky eaters. These are all valid reasons to
approach cooking with trepidation. However, you can’t afford not to cook.
Chronic diseases lower your quality of life, cause you to miss time away
from work, school and leisure activities and are quite costly. Cooking
at home is an important way to help you stay healthy.
If cooking at home is new to you, here are a few tips to help you get started.
Learn to plan meals. Plan ahead to avoid last-minute worries about what to cook for dinner or
the need to grab fast food on your lunch break. Find a handful of easy,
go-to meals that your family enjoys, and build your week around them.
Make extras to pack for lunch and freeze leftovers for another meal.
Plan to use leftovers in future meals for the week. For example, cook a
roast one day, and use the leftover meat for a stir-fry the next day.
Doing a quick online search for "freezer meals" will produce
dozens of meals that include prep for two meals: one to eat that night
and one to freeze for later.
A healthy meal includes selections from each of the five food groups: grains,
vegetables, fruits, dairy and protein. Make half your plate fruits and
vegetables, and limit added salt, sugar, alcohol and saturated or trans fats.
Be an efficient shopper. Make a grocery list that includes regular purchases, and keep it handy
so you can note when you run out of staples. A list allows you to quickly
get the items you need and reduces the likelihood you’ll forget
an important ingredient. There are a host of grocery, reminder and list
apps for smartphones that allow you to keep a running shopping list on
your phone, and you can even share it with your spouse, partner, or older children.
Don’t grocery shop when you’re hungry! You’re more likely
to make unhealthy impulse purchases. Many grocery stores have easy online
shopping and free grocery pickup services. Some even deliver your groceries!
This is a great way to purchase only what's on your list, and to stay
away from extras that often include chips and cookies.
Try to shop the perimeter of the grocery store and only venture into the
center aisles for items such as high-fiber cereals, nuts, dried fruits
and canned beans.
Learn to read food labels. Reading food labels will tell you how many calories you’re consuming
and if the food has nutrients you want more of, or too many ingredients
you want less of, such as added salt or sugar.
Cook together. We all know that taking action to stay healthy doesn’t start or stop
at a certain age. Everyone can benefit from making good choices when it
comes to health. And what better way to stay well than to involve the
whole family in meal preparation?
Try meal kits. Many people enjoy the convenience and variety of ordering meal kits that
come delivered to your door and include healthy recipes, easy instructions,
and less prep work.
Make small changes to start. Set yourself up for success by making small changes one at a time. For
example, add one serving of vegetables to every meal, try a new cooking
technique (roasting vegetables brings out their rich flavor, for example),
substitute whole-wheat pasta in your favorite recipe or swap out meat
once a week for a plant-based protein, such as beans. Try replacing your
favorite beverage with water.
Healthy Meals at a Glance
Includes selections from each of the five food groups:
- Grains - healthy options include barley, quinoa, oats, brown rice, and
whole grain pasta, breads, and cereals
- Fruits and Vegetables - eat a wide variety of colors for optimal nutrition;
frozen is as good as fresh, and fully riped fruit has more health benefits
- Protein - healthy options include lean poultry, eggs, legumes (beans, lentils,
edamame), nuts, soy, and seafood.
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
- Vary protein sources daily.
Limit salt, sugar, alcohol, saturated & trans fats
Limit added sugars:
<6 teaspoons (25g)/day women
< 9 teaspoons (36g)/day men
- < 10% total daily calories
Read ingredient labels for hidden sugars:
- Brown sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Malt syrup
- Raw sugar
Five Reasons to Eat at Home
- Save money
- Healthier diet
- Know and control what ingredients you are eating
- Reduce temptations
- Increase family time
By Eating at Home, You Can:
- Control portion sizes
Tips for Eating Proper Portion Sizes
- Don’t eat out of bag/container
- Use smaller plates so servings appear larger
- Fill half your plate with green veggies first
- Substitute lower-fat varieties of your favorite foods
When eating out:
- Order appetizers or lunch portions
- Split with friend
- Fill up with lower calorie foods, such as soup or salad
- Learn recognizable equivalents for portion sizes
recommended serving size is the amount of each food that you are supposed to eat during a meal
or snack. A
portion is the amount of food that you actually eat. If you eat more or less than
the recommended serving size, you may get either too much or too little
of the nutrients you need.
Americans tend to consume too-large portions, which contributes to obesity
and risk for disease (e.g. heart, diabetes)
One serving of meat or poultry is the palm of your hand or a deck of cards
One 3-ounce (84 grams) serving of fish is a checkbook
One-half cup (40 grams) of ice cream is a tennis ball
One serving of cheese is six dice
One-half cup (80 grams) of cooked rice, pasta, or snacks such as chips
or pretzels is a rounded handful, or a tennis ball
One serving of a pancake or waffle is a compact disc
Two tablespoons (36 grams) of peanut butter is a ping-pong ball
One cup (90 grams) of chopped raw fruits or vegetables is a woman’s
fist or a baseball
One medium apple or orange is a tennis ball
One-quarter cup (35 grams) of dried fruit or nuts is a golf ball or small handful
One cup (30 grams) of lettuce is four leaves (Romaine lettuce)
One medium baked potato is a computer mouse